For Reel

Dark Journey (1937)
August 23, 2015, 10:46 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Victor Saville
2.5 Stars
Dark JourneyProducer Alexander Korda suggested Vivien Leigh for the part of a French spy in Dark Journey, a complicated espionage thriller that involves the romance between agents of opposing countries. She’s not quite right for the role–Leigh herself admitted that she didn’t understand the plot or her character’s motivations, although she sure photographs well under the hands of Georges Périnal and Harry Straddling Sr.. Worse yet, her romantic partner is Conrad Veidt, a man twenty years her elder who shares no chemistry with the burgeoning star. Veidt, despite more often being cast in villainous parts at this stage in his career, nicely manages his elegance with a fair amount of snark. His gestures seem learned, not natural–a nice tell for the performance of a leading German spy. But screenwriter Lajos Biró never gets at the heart of what draws these two together, and worse yet there is an incredible lack of urgency considering that the film is nearly totally occupied by spies. When the final act drifts into Battleship Potemkin territory, it feels like a welcome respite from the tepid romantic subplot, but also never quite comes alive on its own terms as a suspenseful action sequence. Leigh considered this a personal failure and, despite the occasional clever genre touch (maps embroidered onto dresses, communicating via a clock shadow puppet, etc.) and graceful cinematography, it is undoubtedly a mess.